The conclusion of a three-year FBI probe into the corruption surrounding men’s college basketball has led to the arrests of 10 individuals, including four assistant basketball coaches from the University of Arizona, Auburn University, Oklahoma State University, and the University of Southern California (USC). Each individual has been charged with fraud and corruption in a scheme involving coaches, agents, and the sportswear company Adidas.
According to ESPN, this investigation was kept a secret from the NCAA until Sept. 26 while the FBI collected evidence of coaches “accepting bribes to steer their players to certain financial advisers and/or business managers.” Additionally, Adidas employees arranged bribes to the families of top basketball recruits so that players would attend Adidas-sponsored universities and eventually sign with the company once they reached the NBA.
Adidas’s role in this scandal has also implicated the involvement of the University of Louisville, a basketball powerhouse and Adidas-sponsored school. As a result, Louisville’s legendary coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich have been placed on administrative leave, which could likely change in the coming days as this story develops. Pitino’s lawyer has insinuated that the Louisville coach is “effectively fired.”
For Louisville, the FBI’s findings are the latest in a series of scandals that have severely damaged the school’s image. A recent investigation found that team employees hired prostitutes to entertain recruits visiting the university, though Pitino was not involved. After that scandal, Louisville self-imposed a postseason ban for the 2015-16 season in the hope to lighten whatever NCAA sanctions lay ahead. However, the Sept. 26 revelation might eventually lead to Louisville vacating its 2013 national championship. Moreover, the investigation might permanently tarnish the reputation of both Louisville basketball and Pitino, regardless of the extent of his involvement in these violations.
For the NCAA, this investigation may be merely marginal damage, considering the controversies and corruption that have engulfed the organization over the years.
Perhaps this scandal will strengthen arguments that college athletes should be paid for their contributions to the school’s profits. After all, if these athletes were allowed to receive compensation, Adidas’s actions would look like a smart business decision. Moreover, the coaches at Arizona, Auburn, Oklahoma State, and USC would be justified in their efforts to influence these young men’s college decisions. What we label as corruption would become a good business strategy.
The reality is that college athletics is not about to institute such a monumental change. These coaches, executives, and agents broke the law. Nothing can redeem them from bribing amateur athletes.
It’s ironic that amid all this controversy surrounding ethics and college basketball, the Bison recently hosted Jay Wright ‘83, Villanova men’s basketball head coach, as part of the Walling Speaker Series on Sept. 21. Wright’s Villanova program, still a blueblood in the realm of college basketball, seems to embody a code of ethics that a competitor such as Louisville unequivocally does not.
For not only college basketball fans but all college sports fans, it’s disheartening to see time and time again how dark the world can be behind the scenes in college athletics. I often prefer watching college sports to professional ones because of the sheer passion that student athletes display, as many of them know that they will never play the sport competitively again after college. With every scandal, however, this perception of purity around college athletes slowly withers away.